Risk, n. 1. exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance
In surveys given to the elderly, the most common answer to the question “What is your greatest regret in life”? is “That I didn’t take more risks.”
Jorge Luis Borges wrote the following poem in his late eighties, after having just found out that he was dying. It has some cliches, and it's more of a reflection than a poem. Still, this has remained an inspiring piece for me to dig out of my files whenever I'm trying too hard to "play it safe."
Take a look below the fold.
by Jorge Luis Borges
If I could live my life again,
In the next one I would try
to make more mistakes,
I wouldn’t try to be so perfect,
I’d be more relaxed,
I’d be more full than I am now,
In fact, I’d take fewer things seriously,
I’d be less hygenic,
I’d take more risks,
I’d take more trips,
I’d climb more mountains,
I’d swim more rivers,
I’d go to more places that I've never been,
I’d eat more ice cream and less lima beans,
I’d have more real problems –
and less imaginary ones.
I’ve been one of those people who has lived a
prudent and prolific life.
Of course I had moments of joy - but,
if I could go back, I'd try to experience more of the good moments,
I was one of those who never went anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,
If I could live again - I would travel light,
If I could live again – I would walk barefoot
from the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises
and I’d play with more children.
Oh, that's beautiful. I keep thinking of aging lately having just turned a quarter of a century old ;)
I am always wondering what my regrets will be. I think though that that is just how life goes. Our developmental process never ends and perhaps we are just supposed to have regrets. I don't know. Just trying to do my best now.
Posted by: Datta | Thursday, 28 April 2005 at 11:09 AM
Well, I gotta admit that even though I'm probably close to going through my mid-life crisis (I am gettin' to THAT age), I feel like I am doing well. I can honestly say that I have lived a full life and wouldn't feel cheated if I died tomorrow.
Ok, so maybe it would be nice to have a family and lil' Movers and Shakers running around to carry on my DNA-likeness. I would like to have at least ONE genetic misfit that I can point to and say proudly, "That one's mine. Yeah, the one running full speed into the brick wall repeatedly." But there's still time for that and that is risk enough until itself.
I have many friends whom are jealous of me for having "the balls" to pick up and move internationally. Yeah its not easy being an expat all the time but like the author says, you gotta take those risks. I don't want to be in my late 50s thinking, "I wish I had done more travelling when I was younger." I am doing those things that people think they want to do. I am living the life that people think they want to live. I am being the person that they wish they could be.
So I am the one that people live vicariously through and I don't mind a bit. When I'm 80 and on my deathbed, I won't be writing a poem of regret. Instead, I think I'll write a limerick that will bring a smile to the faces of those who read it. Because I will be "the man from Nantucket" (or whatever limerick you like)...
Posted by: Mover and Shaker | Thursday, 28 April 2005 at 11:30 AM
I doubt that I'll have much regret on my deathbed either, Mover and Shaker. I am fortunate to have traveled and lived in other countries. I've jumped out of airplanes, swam in tributaries of the Amazon with pink river dophins, watched a baby being born, taken tri-state, solo motorcycle roadtrips, lived in a tent, conquered depression, and reinvented my life many times in different countries. Like you, many of my friends view me as adventurous, and many of my relatives call me the "eccentric aunt" who comes home from foriegn lands with exotic gifts and amazing travel stories. Maybe they wish they could be me, but in reality I doubt they do. Otherwise, they'd be doing exactly what I'm doing. I'm an anomaly, a gentle freak more than a role model.
There's something to be said for traveling the world... for taking physical risks. But, as I get older, I can't help but think that the bravest thing a human can do is to have a child and raise it in a good home. THAT is far more courageous than hopping on a plane (or jumping out of it!). My sister has two gorgeous children. When I go home to visit, I look at her and her husband's sacrifices and dedication, and I have to admit that they have taken the greatest risk of all.
Posted by: shamash | Thursday, 28 April 2005 at 08:28 PM
Oh my that makes me cry. I've been so caught up in the chaos of life and mothering two kids and to hear you refer to it as courageous touches me. There is that saying that goes something like: 'Having a child is agreeing to walk around with your heart on the outside of your body for the rest of your life." Something like that. It's true. It seems even more courageous as time goes on too. Every night at dinner, I fear someone is going to choke and die. My mind is full of images of them getting hit by a car or drowning in the bath. Letting go is perhaps even more corageous than anything though. That is the hard part.
Posted by: Datta | Friday, 29 April 2005 at 12:24 AM
Well I can appreciate the sentiment expressed but that is one butchered translation you got there... well not butchered per se (the text is quite literally translated) but a lot of the feeling is gone. Or maybe I'm way less proficient in Spanish and so it sounds better and less... hokey.
Just for kicks, here is the original:
Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido, de hecho
tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos, haría más viajes, contemplaría
más atardeceres, subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido, comería
más helados y menos habas, tendría más problemas
reales y menos imaginarios.
Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata y prolíficamente
cada minuto de su vida; claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría de tener
solamente buenos momentos.
Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida, sólo de momentos;
no te pierdas el ahora.
Yo era uno de esos que nunca iban a ninguna parte sin termómetro,
una bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas y un paracaídas;
Si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.
Si pudiera volver a vivir comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera y seguiría así hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita, contemplaría más amaneceres
y jugaría con más niños, si tuviera otra vez la vida por delante.
Pero ya tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.
Posted by: Michiel | Tuesday, 03 May 2005 at 06:23 PM
Thanks, Michiel. EVERYTHING sounds less hokey in Spanish, especially poetry. I hadn't seen the original Spanish version before, and you're right: the translation has lost the orignial emotion. Thanks for passing this on.
Posted by: shamash | Tuesday, 03 May 2005 at 07:30 PM
Risk? I'm not so sure that the big things like where we end up or what we do is really our choice. Somehow I have always been moved along by what the universe has in store for me. Who would have thunk a year ago that I would be moving to live with FD in a couple of months?? Sometimes the reality of it puts fear in my heart but I know that this is the Path I am on and if it is supposed to happen it will no matter what. Of course, one could argue that action on my part set the stage for this to happen in the first place, but I counter that my action did not direct the motion that has moved me to where I am...it was simply a catalyst that was ready to be picked up by the universal forces. We do have choice over how we live our lives on a-day-to-day basis though and this is really what Borges is talking about, I think.
BTW, my choice today is to rise up singing! I will get off my butt and finish the PP of a presentation I am giving next week called "Expand Your Horizons With a Job Overseas." And yes, I am going to provide a link to this great blog which vicariously provides me another year of being Somewhere in Asia. (Woke up to NPR this a.m. and heard the news of blasts. Take care in your choices or where you shop please.)
Posted by: Pups | Saturday, 07 May 2005 at 09:03 AM
Hey, Pups. Thanks for adding my blog to your PPT presentation. I'm honored. You might want to tell readers to click on the "expat life" category to weed out posts that don't apply.
How refreshing to hear your thoughts:
"I'm not so sure that the big things like where we end up or what we do is really our choice. Somehow I have always been moved along by what the universe has in store for me."
I, too, often have this sense that in the truly significant matters of life, I have little choice over the things that really matter: life, love, death.
Like whether I pick up milk at City Mart at 11 am (no bomb!) or 3:00 (bomb!).
Here's to fate, and the angels who have done their job in protecting us and getting us to where we're supposed to be.
Posted by: shamash | Saturday, 07 May 2005 at 08:14 PM
Never one to shy away from a chance to comment, I am somewhat in disagreement with the whole idea of destiny. Perhaps its because I haven't yet had any type of experience that has happened due purely to circumstance but maybe that's just me.
I am 34 years old and the decisions that I have made in my life have dictated what my life has been like over those 34 years. My choices have led to some good things in my life as well as some bad ones. I don't see how fate or destiny has put me into the situation that I am in at this exact moment in time. I took the time to do the thinking (or lack of thinking) that brought me to the place that I am today. Fate didn't put me in the Netherlands and it sure didn't get me the job that brought me here. I did the work, I got the degrees, I made the decisions that put me in this 4 dimensional location.
I believe that it doesn't come from fate or destiny but rather free will. There were other paths that I could have taken in life (and I have been down some of those paths) but what brought me into my profession was the desire to NOT do those other careers because education gave me the greatest intrinsic reward. I certainly didn't pick it for the money.
I exercise my free will every day with the tiny decisions that I make. Those life changing moments don't come out of fate but rather small and seemingly insignificant decisions we make everyday. For example - I am currently living in Holland because of several small decisions that I made years ago. I was the strongest candidate for this position because of my previous experiences. My time in the military helped with this job because (1) I chose to enlist in a technically demanding field, and (2) because I chose to take my free time and volunteer in a local HS and find out if I was cut out to be a teacher. I was able to make those decisions based on the fact that I had enlisted in the military. I enlisted in the military because I made the small decisions in college to NOT study and to go partying instead. If I hadn't made the decision to drink instead of study, I wouldn't be where I am today. I am fabricated from the small decisions that I have made throughout my life.
And so I am a mover and a shaker because of my decisions, my free will. Fate and Destiny are just cool names for rock bands...
Posted by: Mover and Shaker | Thursday, 12 May 2005 at 02:49 AM
LOL at your last line, Mover and Shaker.
You don't believe in fate; I do.
That's why you're the science teacher, and Pups and I are mystics.
Posted by: shamash | Friday, 13 May 2005 at 11:16 PM